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BRN BIO171: What to do when "I can't find anything!"

Research Tips: What to do when "I can't find anything!"

  1. Do you know enough about your topic? Before diving into the databases, do some background searching first and really get to know your topic. Books are great sources of background info, too!
  2. Change up your keywords.  If you’re using the same two or three keywords over and over, you might get stuck. As you get more familiar with your topic, make note of all the terms and phrases you come across.  Use different combinations of these keywords when searching.
  3. Try searching a different resource. Try a new database or website, or try searching Search@UW (the UW System library catalog) for books, articles, and digital collections.
  4. Switch or alter your topic. Is there much existing research on your topic? Is your topic more complex than you thought?  Sometimes it helps to think about your topic in a more general sense and work towards something more specific. Let the research guide you.
  5. Check bibliographies.  If you find a good source with a list of references at the end, check ‘em out!
  6. Be patient and don’t wait until the last minute. Research takes time!
  7. Ask a librarian! Librarians are research experts and are here to help you. Your questions are WAY more interesting than all the other things we do at the library, so ask us!


One Perfect Source?

"Your topic seemed so great! So why can't you find any information on it? If you're looking for an all-in-one source that addresses your topic perfectly, you might need a different approach."

Source: NCSU Libraries